Everyone is aware of large data breaches, hacks, and erosion of trust where citizens’ information becomes either exposed or is stolen outright for criminal purposes. Data can become comprised almost anywhere, including the commercial or banking arena where accounts and passwords are left unprotected or credit card details are passed on illicitly, or in government services where personal identity data is stored. Now imagine a digital identity solution where biometric data binds the digital credential to the holder when verified, where that data stays with the holder, where private means private, and where the holder controls what data to share under what circumstances.

In a world where identity is moving away from the physical documents we have carried for decades and is becoming increasingly digital, online, and mobile, a solution is needed that can ensure citizens’ trust in the organizations that collect, store, and access their data.

A few months ago, we read that tens of thousands of Australian driver’s licenses (including full images of the front and back of the documents) along with other private data were exposed on a publicly-available cloud service. No one even knows how this happened. It goes without saying that such an act does little to instil confidence in citizens that the government is protecting them from criminals and other malicious actors.

Now, as the pace picks up with the migration of physical driver’s licenses and other documents to mobile versions, the security and privacy of these crucial repositories of people’s identities are in sharp focus. This is all the more important in Australia since the country is leading the way in the adoption of, and enthusiasm for, mobile identities. Now that we are on the verge of these mobile identities taking on the legitimacy of the documents we have been carrying in our pockets until today, we need to ensure that the safeguards we put in place are fit for purpose in this new world where your identity can be verified at a distance, passed between devices, checked online, and so on.

TECH5 builds on its industry leadership in multi-modal biometrics (face, fingerprint, and iris) and leveraging of machine learning and neural networks, alongside industry-standard encryption, to offer a platform for mobile identities that is truly built on security, privacy, offline verification, and protection of personal data.

We built our solution from the ground up by taking the analogy of the physical ID document and asking five fundamental questions related to where identity comes from and what it is moving towards:

  1. How can we improve verification that an ID is genuine?
  2. How can we enhance the link between the credential and the holder?
  3. How can we ensure these technology enhancements are inclusive and not only available to those with smartphones?
  4. How can we improve how holders manage and control the privacy of their data?

We then went further and applied all of the above questions to building an ecosystem where a smart card, with the necessary (expensive) reader infrastructure, is not necessary.

It is simply not practical for any verifying party to be an expert in physical security features to confirm that an ID document is genuine each time someone presents one. Even in the case of trained border guards, it is still necessary to understand what a mobile identity solution must offer to give instant assurance that the credential is genuine. Furthermore, such a solution must offer the added benefit of confirming that the ID document is up-to-date and not revoked. Finally, when a physical ID is presented, how can you ensure it belongs to the person presenting it? Even if human ability to compare a printed photo to a person were infallible (it is far from this), how would you know the photo on the document has not been altered or replaced?

Our platform, T5-IDencode, is built for the world where, when identities can live on smartphones, every other smartphone is potentially a reader (a verifying device), and where citizens, banks, government agencies, retailers, law enforcement, and so on can all verify the parts of your identity that they need without necessarily having access data they do not need. Furthermore, our platform allows for any of these entities to verify that the data they are being permitted to access is indeed the data of the person sharing it, since verification takes place in real time, against the holder, biometrically, whether the holder is physically present, on the phone or online.

The T5-IDencode platform covers the entire identity lifecycle from acquiring and verifying each citizen’s personal and biometric data, through the issuance of a secure digital identity to their smartphone, to the ability to verify that identity using another authorised smartphone, tablet, PC, or dedicated reader. In addition, because we have developed a way of packaging the data in a visual form, called a cryptograph, it can also be printed out on a card or any other document and be verified in exactly the same way as if it were presented on a smartphone screen. Such a platform has numerous benefits. First, it ensures total inclusion for those who do not have or cannot use a smartphone by making it possible for any citizen to print and photocopy their own identities for use in a variety of scenarios. Second, the data are stored in a cryptograph that cannot be accessed without the holder’s “biometric authorization” (the real person’s face or fingerprint, for example). The data remains private and unusable by an unauthorized party but offers the same 1:1 matching capability where the permission is granted. In this way, even an authorised verifying party still only has access to the data when the owner grants permission. Third, because the data in the credential can be segregated, different user access scenarios can be managed whereby different verifiers can only access certain parts of the data. For example, a bartender could gain access to an “over 18” confirmation but no other data, a car rental company could gain access only to a licence number, validity, and outstanding infraction information, but a law enforcement officer could be granted access to the entire record.

Finally, the platform allows for biometric-based onboarding of citizens from their own home, building in checks against either physical government-issued documents or existing databases, or both, via the acquisition of a facial image from a smartphone and also fingerprints if required. Once the data record is created on the back-end system (checked against existing biodata and biometrics, if applicable, and merged with existing information if relevant), an encrypted digital credential is provisioned to the smartphone of the citizen over the air. No queuing, no form-filling, no physical presence, or contact. The credential takes the form of a “card-like” image on the phone’s screen, which at its most basic level mimics the physical document that is issued traditionally but can also either be printed out and sent to the holder or sent in electronic form for the holder to print out. However, there are two crucial differences: with an existing physical document, you as a citizen cannot be sure a verifying party is who they say they are, and even if you are sure, you have no choice but to display the whole document to them. With the digital credential (either printed or on your phone), the requesting party’s phone must have the necessary digital keys before any data is shared. The citizen is also notified that the data is being requested. As a result, the citizen has greater control and can opt to share data by agreeing to have their selfie taken or their fingerprints photographed to provide a match to open up the credential.

The verifying party captures the cryptograph with the camera on their phone or other device (pre-installed with the authorised software and holding the correct keys to access the encrypted data) and is instructed to capture a photo of the holder. This all takes a few seconds.

The software instantly addresses two fundamental issues: it verifies that the credential is genuine via the digital key exchange; it verifies the holder is indeed the owner of the digital credential.

The requested data (and only that data, as covered above) is displayed on the device of the verifying party.

And all this happens:

  • Offline, wherever it takes place (up a mountain, in the desert, out at sea, with no network coverage) without needing to access a central database or web service.
  • Privately, without the issuer of the identity credential being aware (Today, if you use your driver’s license to open a bank account, the issuer does not know nor needs to know, you did this. The same principle should operate in the world of the digital identity).
  • Securely, without the holder’s biometric data being passed on or checked against a central database: the verifying software confirms the identity of the holder but does not receive their full biometric data.

Verification can also happen over the internet, online and at a distance, or over the phone. With the holder verifying themselves against their credential by taking a selfie, the same secure biometric authentication can still happen remotely and be confirmed to the verifying party to authorise/verify a transaction or other event.

The mobile credential does not need to replace the physical one issued today. Indeed, it may well not be necessary in many scenarios for years to come. The mobile credential can coexist alongside the physical document (which perhaps remains locked away at home) whilst offering the enhanced verification possibilities outlined above.

Moreover, since the credential is visual in the form of a cryptograph, it can be easily (but securely) added to other documents such as ownership titles or contracts, and even bank statements, utility bills, and so on that are often used to back up identity claims, whether these are printed or stored/sent electronically.

As previously mentioned, the platform also offers the possibility of adding biometric verification of the holder even in the absence of a smartphone. The cryptograph can be printed on an existing physical document, or indeed on a complementary one (even by the individual at home on their own printer), allowing the same biometric-based verification to take place as described above, linking the credential to the holder in a way not possible today without expensive smart-card infrastructure that is simply not available in the majority of use cases.

All of the above is supplied as modules, up to a complete platform, depending on a customer’s needs, existing infrastructure, and other partner contributions to the overall solution.

Once identity goes digital, in a secure and verifiable way, offline, a whole world of possibilities opens up with the creation of a new ecosystem.

TECH5 is more than happy to provide more information, demonstrations, or to discuss pilot projects, at short notice.